By Desmond Ejibas
The Federal Government, on Saturday, announced that it had flagged-off the physical verification phase of the ongoing forensic audit of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
The Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Sen. Godswill Akpabio inaugurated the exercise in Uyo, Akwa Ibom, according to a statement by NDDC’s Director of Corporate Affairs, Dr Ibitoye Abosede.
The statement quoted Akpabio as saying that 16 field auditors were selected to immediately identify and verify the over 12,000 projects across the nine Niger Delta states.
He said: “It is the position of President Muhammadu Buhari that for us to have a properly constituted board for the NDDC we should first address inadequacies in NDDC, since inception.
“To this end, there is nothing our detractors have not done to stop the forensic audit. This has led some people to wonder if the forensic audit has been aborted,” he said.
Akpabio attributed the slow pace of the forensic audit to budgetary delays, saying that President Buhari had intervened to save the situation.
“The President is resolute that he cannot leave the Niger Delta and NDDC the way he met it. As a demonstration of his commitment, President Buhari is funding the forensic audit from the budget of the Presidency.
“So, I wonder why some people will be peddling rumours that the forensic audit had derailed – when in fact the exercise is ongoing,” he said.
The minister faulted claims that the forensic audit was being used as a ploy to continue with the NDDC Interim Administration, insisting that the security component of the audit exercise was as important as the forensic audit itself – due to safety issues in the region.
According to him, the field visit was a critical next step that would be followed by the production of the forensic report.
“The physical verification is a very serious exercise, such that its findings may lead to the prosecution of contractors, who abandoned their contracts without completing them,” he pointed out.
Dr Babayo Ardo, Permanent Secretary in the ministry, said the forensic audit of the NDDC headquarters in Port Harcourt, Rivers, had been concluded.
He said the second phase of the audit exercise would commence with the inspection of over 12,000 projects sites that had been identified in the region.
Also speaking, NDDC Interim Administrator, Efiong Akwa, said the commission had set up a committee to move around the states, to ensure that previous verification exercises were conducted transparently.
“The committee would move around the sites with a formidable security escort to ensure their safety as well as ensure the verification was done properly,” he assured.
On his part, the Lead Forensic Auditor, Joshua Basiru, assured of the auditors’ commitment to deliver their mandate for the repositioning of the NDDC.
He said that in spite of challenges encountered during the first phase of the audit, his team made appreciable progress in line with the ‘forensic terms of reference.’
“So, I urge the field forensic auditors and their teams to diligently and meticulously render their professional service for the successful completion of the forensic audit,” he said. (NAN)